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Archives for July, 2009

An Okkochi zome Yukata: “Dip Dyed” Shibori

July 30, 2009

Trailing ivy and a glimpse of lattice is the motif on this beautiful, late nineteenth/early twentieth century Arimatsu shibori yukata.  A yukata is an unlined, cotton kimono, worn for summer outings, during stays at hot springs, and at home.


This is an okkochi zome or “dip dyed” shibori technique: the desired pattern is stitched on the cloth, then, the stitched areas of the cloth are selectively dipped into the dye—-as opposed to the entire bolt being submerged in a dye vat.


The naturalistic effect of a trailing vine is beautifully realized.


This yukata shows a nice, airy pattern.  In old Japan yukata were worn on summer nights for strolls, for viewing fireworks and for other diversionary and casual activities.  That said, you’ll find a preponderance of  “light” and “airy” patterns on yukata which were intended to lend a cooling quality to the hot summer months. Patterns like streams, butterflies, delicate blooms and dragonflies, etc. are often found decorating yukata.okko1c

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A Tsutsu Forest

July 24, 2009

Today I am showing a “forest” of tsutsus.  A tsutsu is paper cone whose brown color is the result of the paper being saturated with kaki shibu, or the tannin of green persimmons.  A tsutsu is the drawing tool used in the free hand paste resist dyeing techinque called tsutsugaki: the cone is filled with rice paste which is applied directly to cloth; the tsutsu is used much in the same way as you would use a pastry bag in cooking or baking.


You may notice the decorative ball in the center of the photo: this is a temari, an elaborately wound ball of leftover threads that was originally conceived as a child’s toy.  This is an old one–probably about 75 years old, or more, and it’s one of the nicest I’ve seen.  I’ve written about temari before on this blog, and you can see those entries here. In this same archived blog, I talk a bit about the two curious figures that also inhabit the “forest,” that of Daruma, the “father”of Zen Buddhism in Japan and, a widely-loved figure in popular culture.


If these tsutsus interest you, I will be offering them on my website in the future, or write me at [email protected] for more information.


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When in Kyoto….

July 18, 2009

…visit Shikama Fine Arts,  a jewel box of a gallery in the heart of Kyoto that offers exceptionally chosen antique and vintage artworks from Japan and abroad.  Nao Shikama, the owner of the gallery, has an expert eye for beauty and quality, and his sparely furnished gallery highlights the rotating cache of treasures he is showing at any particular time.  Shikama has a special interest in Japanese Mingei material as well as English studio pottery of the 20th century.

Shown above is a page from a 15th century French book of hours. Under it is a 19th century Korean chest upon which is a 1960s Leach pottery jug, from England.


The beautifully carved and worn wooden mask, above, is Japanese and was made in the 18th century.  The jug is by the Mingei school potter Sachi Fujii and dates from the 1960s.



Shown above is a framed English Victorian silhouette paper cut-out; to its right, below, is a wonderful English nutcracker.  The white porcelain vase is a 20th century Japanese creation.


What a beautiful arrangement of treasures is shown above.  Amid the group, a 20th century Leach pottery tankard and an 18th century white porcelain Imari, stand out.


Shikama Fine Arts is open Thursdays through Sundays, 12 noon until 6 PM and Nao Shikama is happy to speak either Japanese or English.  To find the gallery, enter the Teramachi arcade at the intersection of  Teramachi/Oike.  Walk one block south, take a right at the corner and continue on for about 5 blocks.  You’ll see Shikama Fine Arts on the left-hand side.  If you see a small potted plant outside the front door, you know the gallery is open, so don’t hesitate to walk in and explore.

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A “Boro” Temple in Kyoto

July 14, 2009

I have just returned from Japan on a buying trip and while in Kyoto I stayed in a small apartment in the heart of the city.  Each day I would leave the apartment to go out for the day and I’d pass this beautifully run-down temple–I fell in love with the repaired shoji, which to me look like a pristine boro textile or a Korean pojagi.


This old temple is immensely soulful in its simplicity and its neglect, and the stories as to how it became like this are unknown to me, but my imagination churned some heartrending tales.    Of course feral cats abound at the temple and on this day I caught site of a young woman feeding the black one, seen above.


The ramshackle roof tiles are in beautiful disarray, don’t you think?  A year or so ago this temple caught my eye when I was passing by it in the rain, and I noticed a cat,  huddled safe and dry in the eaves of the roof of this very gate.  He  was crouched amid the lavish carving in the eaves, looking smug and protected.  It was from then on that I decided to walk past this temple each day.  There is something wonderfully humble and indefinite about its appeal.


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A Day in the Country

July 10, 2009

I just returned from two-and-a-half weeks in Japan on a buying trip, which was wonderful: I found incredible treasures which I’ll start posting to my website soon.

On one day during my Japan sojourn, several friends and I piled into a car and headed out from Kyoto city to the northernmost part of Kyoto Prefecture, to a place called Tango which is situated on the Sea of Japan.


From the sea, we drove high into a mountain village; we were there to have a look at some of the recent harvest of mountain wisteria, which is still being hand-made into yarns to create fuji fu, or cloth made from wisteria yarn.  Our host, the former curator of the local museum, is involved in fuji fu research, so he gave us a look at some of the recent threads.  He also took  us to his village, whose photos are shown here.  He wanted to show us the organic rice fields he planted himself, by hand.  Quite amazing!



All over the Japanese countryside, bunches of onions were hanging out to dry, usually under the eaves of the roofs of local houses.  In this case, below, you can see onions behind a corrugated, clear plastic door.  I liked the way it looked.




I loved this house, shown above and below.  You’ll see that this is a traditional, stuccoed home that has been retrofitted with a skin of corrugated metal.  Just lovely.


…and more posts coming soon!

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Sometsukasa Yoshioka 染司よしおか, A Botanical Dyer’s Atelier: Post #11, Yoshioka’s Kyoto Store

July 2, 2009

This post is the final one in a series on Sometsukasa Yoshioka, the fifth-generation botanical dyeworks located in Kyoto, Japan, which is under the direction of the master dyer and cultural historian, Sachio Yoshioka.  If you have missed the previous posts, feel free to scroll down to the very first one where I introduce the Yoshioka and offer some context for understanding the importance of this dyeworks.

But today we’ll go shopping.

Yoshioka’s botanically dyed products are  beautiful and available for sale at his small shops in Kyoto and Tokyo–some larger department stores in Japan also sell his work, but the entire line can be seen at his tiny and jewel-like stand- alone stores.  The Kyoto store is located in the Shinmonzen Antique District, in Gion, the famous geisha dsitrict.  The Shinmonzen area is comprised of just a few streets, so you will easily find the shop if you look.


Shown above are ramie cloth cushions dyed in myriad colors; below are silk organza scarves dyed in botanical dyes.  The shop shows beautiful items such as totes and bags in several sizes, gorgeous, simple pouches, coasters, and noren or door coverings.  By all means, go and investigate this amazing little shop where color comes to life and where you will no doubt be seduced into acquiring something for yourself and others.




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